Even without writing a time-travel novel or something experimental where all the scenes happen in random or reverse order, there comes a point when every author should write out a timeline for their book. Some need to do it sooner, some later.
I should have done it soner, even though I’m pretty good at keeping track of things in my head.
I’m very close to delivering the redraft of the book formerly known as ‘Empire of Dust’ (which won’t be its finished title) to my editor at DAW and just polishing a few things before a final read through. Imagine my horror when I realised that an event’s consequences seemed to be happening before the event itself.
I work in Scrivener. It’s a brilliant bit of software which makes it very easy to reposition scenes by moving the scene headers up or down in the binder column. Unfortunately it’s also easy to drag and drop a scene into the wrong place by accident, or to slide a chapter inside another chapter (and it may not even be the one you’re working on currently, so you may not notice straight away). It’s easy to rectify, but only of you know you’ve done it.
I think I did an accidental drag and drop by catching a chunk with my mouse, and then possibly compounded the problem by adding a bit into the wrong place. So without a thorough timeline check I can’t trust the work in progress. I’m now going through it one scene at a time and committing the timeline as it stands (not as I thought it stood) to writing.
I thought it was a fairly straightforward linear story, and indeed it is (reasonably straightforward, anyway) but it just goes to show that you can’t be too careful.